Roast master

Coffee-Roasting Company Brings Ethiopian Blends to Sarasota

Blane Charlot, the owner of Buna Roaster, is gaining local recognition for her small-batch blends.

By Allison Forsyth June 24, 2020

Traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies involve glass cups and a special pot called a jebena.

In the grab-and-go coffee culture of the West, it may be hard to imagine taking your time to savor the experience of sipping your coffee every time you need a caffeine fix. Blane Charlot, who owns the Sarasota coffee-roasting company Buna, wants to convince you to slow down, enjoy the moment and brew delicious coffee with the same passion she inherited from her Ethiopian family.

Buna Roaster owner Blane Charlot.

Growing up in Ethiopia, Charlot witnessed the nation's luxurious coffee drinking traditions. Elaborate coffee ceremonies were performed three times a day in her home, with the finest glass cups, special pots called jebenas and extravagant white clothing. Charlot watched her parents slowly roast, grind and brew small batches of green coffee beans each time they wanted to enjoy a fresh cup.

This practice of small batch roasting, what Buna calls "exposure roasting," is a technique that highlights the unique characteristics of each flavor without burning the beans. Charlot says the technique keeps coffee fresh and delicious.

"I started Buna in 2017," says Charlot. "Three years later, I moved to Sarasota, and have been selling  signature blends on our website since." Buna, an Ethiopian word for "coffee," is currently sold online and can be delivered locally, but Charlot has dreams to open a downtown storefront where customers can taste the fruity and floral notes of her bold blends. With new recognition coming from the Support Sarasota-Manatee Black-Owned Businesses Facebook group, her dream may soon be a reality.

"People are getting to know me in the area, and when I hear back from customers saying it's the best coffee they've ever had, I get so happy," says Charlot. "The community response has been wonderful." 

Buna's blends include the dark roast Harrar, the medium, flowery Yirgacheffe, and the light Natural Sidamo, all named after growing regions in Ethiopia. The beans are roasted with a machine from Mill City Roasters, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The high-quality equipment ensures that Buna's flavor profile and batches are always consistent.

The origin of coffee beans is also important to Charlot, which is why a percentage of her profits go toward Fair Trade Ethiopian farmers, and charities like Save the Children and Hope for Children.

"Every little bit I give back helps," says Charlot. "The living situation of these farmers can be heartbreaking, and they should be rewarded for their hard work."

Charlot's perspective on growing and roasting caused her to experience culture shock when moving to the United States at age 19. The process of making and drinking coffee here happened quickly, and most consumers didn't even know where the beans came from.

"Coffee is very fast-paced in the United States," says Charlot. "It's slower and more special in Ethiopia, and even in London, where I lived for a few years. It is not just about getting caffeinated. It is more about the experience, and from where the coffee originated."

Charlot's favorite way to enjoy a Buna blend? Mixed with brown sugar or melted salted caramel—one of the many ways she hopes to serve coffee at her future storefront.

"Coffee has always made me happy," says Charlot. "I hope to share that joy with the world."

To purchase coffee from Buna Roaster, click here or call (941) 216-5680.

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